A few weeks ago I wrote about Season for Temptation, Theresa Romain’s fantastically witty debut. Despite it’s obvious charm and desperately romantic story, it hit upon a romance trope that always turns me off: the groom-to-be in love with his fiance’s sister. I admitted to stopping the book half-way through just to make absolutely certain that the jilted fiance got her own HEA. The result: I tore through Louisa’s story, Season for Surrender, in about 2 days.
In the second book in her Holiday Pleasures series, Romain manages to hit upon one of my absolute favorite romance novel tropes OF ALL TIME: the bookish bluestocking and the rake fall in love. Bonus: It’s a Christmas romance. Not only do I get a storyline set up to appeal to my little librarian heart, but I get snow, mistletoe, and mulled wine in paperback form! It’s a WIN-WIN, folks.
Louisa is invited to a naughty holiday house party at Lord Xavier’s (Alex) country estate thanks to an off-handed low-stakes bet between Xavier and his smarmy cousin Lockwood. Despite Xavier’s playboy reputation and the scandalous gossip that surrounds this annual event, Louisa accepts. Eager to find some fun in a life that’s left her firmly on the shelf, a third-wheel in her sister’s marriage to her ex-fiance, Louisa sets off with the intent to get kissed and find some interesting new books. Isn’t that every girl’s fantasy? No? Just mine? Oh well. Throw in the best ballsy, brassy doyenne EVER–Louisa’s aunt, Lady Irving–and it’s a recipe for a hilarious and sexy Christmas romance.
(Also, nerd alert: Much of the romance happens in a fabulous library.)
Romain’s sparkling wit is, as always, on display (as evidence, see the chapter: Containing the Aggravation of Shakespearean Insight). Her dialogue is spot on and inner monologues are so rich and revealing that it’s a wonder I don’t expect to find these characters in my day-to-day life (Lady Irvine, let’s do lunch). Louisa and Xavier’s romance is rooted in the revelations that happen when two people have the advantage of simply being alone together without artifice or expectation. Surrender is a getting-to-know you story, less about the external obstacles thrown before a budding relationship and more about the walls we put up to keep ourselves safe.
Louisa may play the well-mannered wallflower but her tongue is sharp and her wit is biting. She just rarely puts them on display. Xavier is the rake we all hope for–all flash and style to hide a somewhat boring homebody, the kind of guy who just wants to sit at home reading Dante, y’all (commence swooning). In reading Surrender, I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite TV shows, Freaks and Geeks. It has that same theme of people not quite matching up to their stereotypes, but instead turning out to be complex, likable, annoying, and well-rounded human beings.
I’ll continue reading my way through Romain’s Holiday Pleasures series because she’s a fantastic writer and I am such a sucker for Christmas romance. If you’re interested, the latest book in the series, Season for Desire, was just released this month!
(It’s only missing the plus because I was really hoping for a Lady Irving secondary romance. Sassy widows need love too!)